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Series One: Emerging from Covid-19 stronger: Perspectives from the Liverpool Doctoral Community

Covid-19 is rapidly becoming an event of world historical consequence. The pandemic has added a fresh existential threat to the problems humanity was already grappling with. This series of podcasts draws from the insights and expertise of PhD researchers across the University of Liverpool to identify solutions to, and opportunities arising from, this grave new challenge.

Hosted by Abi O’Connor, and co-produced by Ronnie Hughes, both PhD students in Sociology, these podcasts explore the work being carried out by PhD researchers during the COVID19 pandemic. The series highlights how many are carrying out research that will help respond to and inform policies being rolled out across the City Region to mitigate the consequences of the pandemic.

The overarching theme of these podcasts is that the local is crucial. Local responses to outbreaks of Covid-19  have been the most effective. These include local voluntary organisations mitigating the impacts of real resource shortages and local socially trading organisations showing a resilience and a commitment to workers and communities that large corporations have mostly fallen well short of.

This series will endeavour to ensure ‘Build Back Better’ does not become yet another slogan with no real meaning, especially for the Liverpool City Region.


Series one introduction with Abi O'Connor

Sustainable and Resilient Cities: Liverpool

In this short introduction Abi discusses the purpose of the series and what can be expected from upcoming episodes. Abi’s research is a sociological exploration of the political economy of stigmatisation in Liverpool and the impacts this has on governance and policy. You can read her most recent publication on central government's financial neglect of Liverpool here.

Follow Abi on Twitter or you can contact her via email on aoconnor@liverpool.ac.uk


Episode one with Ronnie Hughes

Better Lives in Better Places

In the first episode of the series Abi talks to Ronnie Hughes, a fellow Sociology PhD student and also the co-producer, with herself, of this series of podcasts. Here Ronnie discusses his PhD research on Utopia in relation to the present and local context, drawing on his experiences as one of the founding members of Granby Four Streets Community Land Trust (amongst many other community organisations) to explore how life might look like in the Liverpool City Region as the local economy and society begin to rebuild following lockdown.

You can find Ronnie on Twitter @asenseofplace1, and follow his blog, A Sense of Place, which explores all things Liverpool.


Episode two with Olly Kennedy

Modern Slavery in Corporations

In this episode Abi is joined by Olly Kennedy, a PhD student in the Management School. Olly’s research focuses on social value and combatting modern slavery in global supply chains. Olly discusses the need to ensure our understanding of modern slavery transcends that which is perpetuated by the media – the idea that modern slavery is a problem, but one which happens elsewhere. Specifically, Olly discusses the proposed £8.8billion Economic Recovery Plan for the Liverpool City Region, providing up to 28,000 jobs in the construction industry and the implications this may have with regards to casualised and precarious labour.

Olly’s co-authored Policy Briefing 'Coordinating Public Procurement: Drawing Closer in a Time of Distancing' is available here.

 You can find Olly on Twitter @ollywkennedy or contact him via email on Oliver.Kennedy@liverpool.ac.uk


Episode three with Tilly Clough

Educational Inequalities in Independent & State Schools

Abi is joined by Tilly Clough, a PhD student in Liverpool’s Law School. Tilly’s research explores the charitable status of independent schools and whether this status can be justified. In this episode Tilly discusses the differential access to resources between independent and state schools as perpetuating inequalities, particularly in the context of the move to online teaching at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Tilly’s article on Private School Policy Reform is available here.

Tilly’s piece on the Impact of COVID-19 on Educational Inequality and the Attainment Gap is available here.

You can follow Tilly on Twitter @tilly_clough or contact her via email on Matilda.Clough@liverpool.ac.uk 


Episode four with Chloe Spence

Digital Mental Health Services: Let’s Keep Talking

Chloe Spence, a PhD student in the Management School, joins Abi to talk about her PhD Research which explores mental health service delivery, specifically drug addiction services for women.

In this episode we talk about changes to mental health service delivery which have been implemented during the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the long-term viability of services going digital. Specifically, Chloe talks about Let’s Keep Talking, a free local telephone service which has recently been launched in Liverpool.

You can contact Chloe via email on Chloe.Spence@liverpool.ac.uk. Her MRes dissertation, an evaluation of Goleudy, a Welsh tenancy support and mental health service, is available to read here.


Episode five with Lucy Dowdall

The Importance of the Upper Mersey Estuary

In the first of our inter-institutional episode, Abi is joined by Lucy Dowdall, a PhD Student in the Environmental and Biological Sciences Department at Liverpool John Moores University.

In this episode we discuss Lucy’s research which explores the ‘natural capital’ approach to the management of the Upper Mersey Estuary. Lucy explains why we should be conserving spaces like this, explaining the importance of the estuary to the Liverpool City Region. Looking towards future, we discuss ways to create ‘win win’ situations – which respond to pressing issues, including housing shortages, whilst also preserving the estuary and all of its benefits.

Lucy can be contacted via email on L.E.Dowdall@2020.ljmu.ac.uk or via her Twitter: @DrDowdall.


Episode six with Richie Kirwan

The consequences of being sedentary during lockdown

In this week’s episode Abi is joined by Richie Kirwan, a PhD student in the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences at Liverpool John Moores University.

Richie’s work looks to understand the influence of diet and exercise on muscle mass in older people, exploring how this can affect heart health. Richie discusses his research and the arguments made in his most recent article which identifies the health implications of lockdown.

We then apply Richie’s findings to understanding the difficulties currently being faced in the Liverpool City Region, discussing the question of space for exercising during lockdown and the financial restraints faced by individuals, families and the local authority when looking to improve health and well-being.

The article referenced in this episode is available to read here.

You can get in touch with Richie via email on R.P.Kirwan@2018.ljmu.ac.uk, via Twitter @bm_nutrition or via Instagram @be_more_nutrition.

You can get in touch with Abi via Twitter: @abioconnor_ or email: aoconnor@liverpool.ac.uk. Please let us know if you'd like to be involved in the podcast!


Episode seven with Abi O’Connor in conversation with Ronnie Hughes

Liverpool, central government and managed decline

Ronnie & Abi come together in this week’s episode to discuss Abi’s research in the context of Liverpool’s current experiences: including having now entered tier 3 lockdown restrictions. The conversation explores the relationship between central and local government, amid calls that this is a second round of ‘managed decline’, plus the geographical inequalities which have come to characterise Britain, and how Abi’s work speaks to the consequences of the current political and social climate on Liverpool.

The latter half of the episode then moves to a conversation about what’s next for the podcast. Where we’ll be thinking about what ‘Doing a PhD in a pandemic’ really means. We touch upon topics we'll be discussing in ‘Series 2’, including our experiences of changing research methods, writing during lockdown and our lives beyond the PhD – amongst many other issues!

You can read more of Abi’s work on The Conversation here.

You can get in touch via email: aoconnor@liverpool.ac.uk, or Twitter @abioconnor_ Plus, we’d love to hear from you if you're interested in doing an episode on the podcast or if you have any ideas topics you’d like to suggest for us to discuss, do please drop us a message.


Episode Eight with Professor Mark Boyle

Review of series one

In this episode Ronnie & Abi are joined by Professor Mark Boyle. Mark is the academic lead for the Sustainable and Resilient Cities research theme at the University of Liverpool, which is where the idea for this podcast series originated.

We reflect on the podcast so far, discussing some of the pertinent issues facing PhD students currently and talk about the importance of disseminating research widely, both within and outside the academic community.

You can contact Mark via email mark.boyle@liverpool.ac.uk

As series 1 comes to an end, we wanted to thank everyone who’s listened in – we so pleased with the response that we’ve decided to return for a series 2! On 18th November 2o20 we will release the first of our ‘Doing a PhD during a global pandemic’ episodes. As always, please get in touch if you’d like to be involved or have any ideas you’d like us to discuss! Abi: aoconnor@liverpool.ac.uk @abioconnor_ Ronnie: R.D.Hughes@liv.ac.uk @asenseofplace1


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